How to Spot Phishing Attacks

Imagine that you are a fish swimming in a big pond full of other fishes and you spot something that you think is food. You immediately swim over and start inspecting the “food” in question. How can you tell if what you see is food or a rubber imposter that is waiting to cause you harm? While email phishing is one of the most common forms of cybersecurity attacks, it can also be one of the easiest to spot if you know what to look for. Phishing is a form of fraud where cybercriminals use a disguised email and some social engineering to try and get the victim to do something that they wouldn’t normally do or to provide them with sensitive information. Phishing emails usually look legitimate at first glance, but after taking a closer look, one may find a few red flags that let them know that the email is malicious.  Here are a few ways to spot a phishing attack.

  1. Outside of the Norm

One of the first red flags to a phishing email is that the message just simply feels… odd. The email may request something out of the ordinary such as a gift card or personal information and the sender is usually not following your business’s normal procedure for requesting such information. The attacker may make the email sound urgent, trying to pressure the victim to act without stopping to think and ask any probing questions.

  1. Poor grammar

Another way to spot a phishing email is if the email uses poor grammar. Sometimes you may get an email from what appears to be a credible source. The logo may be correct, and the email looks official however, after reading it you may notice that it is worded strangely or that there are a few typos. While cybercriminals are becoming more and more advanced in their phishing methods, one thing remains the same: their grammar is usually not that great. Poorly worded emails or emails with typos should always be treated with extra caution.

  1. Check the sender address

Checking the sender address is one of the best and final ways to spot a phishing email. Cybercriminals can make emails look like they came from anyone, but they cannot force the sender address to look like the real thing. In an example, a phishing email may appear to come from your boss, John Smith. John’s email may normally be Johnsmith@mycompanysdomain.com but after taking a closer look you may notice that the phishing email’s address is actually from Johnsmith@notmycompanysdomain.com. It can be a subtle difference but, noticing that difference will save you and your company a world of trouble.

If you are suspicious that an email maybe a little… fishy (pun intended), contact the supposed sender either in person or via a phone number that you know is theirs. Never respond to these emails and never trust the information given inside of the email (like phone numbers or URL links). Always notify your IT department of any emails that you suspect to be a phishing attack.

Want to test yourself to see if you can spot a phishing email? Take SonicWall’s Phishing IQ test here!

Speed Up Your Slow Computer

There is not much that is more frustrating than trying to conduct work on a slow computer. For many people, sitting there watching their mouse spin on the screen is enough for them to kick their computer to the curb. If you are at your wit’s end, trying to get your job done on a computer that is slower than caramel in January, then try these four quick fixes to get your computer back to running at an optimal speed.

  1. Put the Kibosh on Unneeded Programs

Many computers are purchased pre-installed with all kinds of programs that you will not use. Some of these programs, along with a few that you may download yourself, automatically run when you start up your computer. Taking the time to uninstall any of these unneeded programs will help speed up your computer when it restarts.

To uninstall these programs on a windows computer, find your control panel by searching for it in your search menu. Then click on “Programs and Features” to find and uninstall any programs that you do not need. Be careful not to uninstall any necessary programs that your computer needs to operate.  A PC Decrapifier is a great tool that you can use to distinguish between programs that are junk to you and programs that your computer needs to function.=

  1. Delete Unnecessary Documents

Similar to how unneeded programs will slow down your computer at startup, unnecessary documents that you keep saved to your computer will bog down your computer’s search abilities. Deleting any unnecessary documents will assist your computer in finding items faster when you search for them in your search menu and File Explorer. Be sure to check all your folders for these old files, including Documents, Downloads, Desktop, Pictures, Videos, Music, and any other folders listed under “This PC” in your File Explorer.

  1. Adjust Your Visuals Effects

Some visual components to your computer are unnecessary and tend to slow your computer down. You can reduce these effects by doing the following:

In your File Explorer, right-click on “This PC” to open your properties. Then go to “Advanced System Settings” and click on the Settings button under Performance. In the Performance Options window that appears, set the visual effects to “Adjust for best performance” and then click “Ok” to close out of the windows.

You may immediately notice some small changes to the look of your File Explorer such as the look of the text and the elimination of shadows that were previously there. You may also notice a change in the look of your program windows as you move them around on your screen. By eliminating these unnecessary features, you will help your computer work smarter, not harder.

  1. Give Your PC a Spring Cleaning

It may sound funny, but your computer needs a good deep cleaning every so often, just like your home does. Dust collects inside of the machine, clogging it up and causing it to overheat. Using a Keyboard aerosol spray can you can blow out the buildup of dust inside of your laptop through the vents on the side. For a desktop computer, you can open the tower and suck out the filth with a small vacuum. In both cases, make sure that you take the machines outside to avoid any plumes of dust in your office space and be sure to verify that your computer is completely off and unplugged before you start.

 

References

Billington, J. (2013, December 18). 10 ways to fix a slow computer. Retrieved from Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/tech/10-ways-to-fix-a-slow-computer

Passwords 101

Business, technology, internet and networking concept. Young businesswoman working on his laptop in the office, select the icon security on the virtual display.

A business’s cybersecurity starts with their employee’s passwords. No amount of network security or locks can protect a business if the passwords that the company’s employees are using have been hacked. Here a few basic practices that you should teach yourself and your employees in order to avoid potential cybersecurity breaches.

  1. Change Passwords Frequently – we recommend that you require company password changes every 30 to 90 days.
  2. Password Requirements – it is best to require a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and a symbol.
  3. Teach your employees to avoid using any personal information that may be guessed or found out in their passwords. This includes a pet or family member’s name, phone numbers and birthdates just to name a few.
  4. Make company policies around not sharing login information with coworkers. Every employee should use their own login information to complete their work.
  5. There are many websites out there that are waiting to steal personal data. Since you cannot control what websites your employees go to on their personal devices, it is a best practice to discourage your employees from using the same passwords in their work and personal lives.

Following these five tips is a great start to better secure your company’s data. For more information on ways to improve your business’s password security, contact First Call today!

Keep Your IT Person with Co-Managed IT

Young female professional at desk smiling to camera

Meet Cindy. Everyone at work loves Cindy. She is always kind, willing to take on additional work and is often considered the “office mom.” Cindy was somewhat IT savvy when she first started working in the office and her willingness to help has now made her the go-to IT guru.

Cindy has always happily tackled any IT issues that arose but lately, her willingness to take on additional work is catching up with her. She is grumpy, stressed out and tired and it is beginning to show in her daily work.

You realize that Cindy has too much on her work plate. Your business is expanding, and she is now doing the job of 2 people, IT guru and office employee. You fear that if something doesn’t change soon, Cindy will become too overburdened and begin looking for a different job.

So how do you help decrease Cindy’s workload and still get IT support for your office without hiring another employee?

Consider co-managed IT!

Find a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who will partner with your business and offers co-managed IT. This MSP will perform the work of an entire IT department for only a fraction of the cost of hiring another employee. In our case above, co-managed IT services would greatly decrease Cindy’s IT workload and will free Cindy up to focus on her official position as an office employee.

Help your office Cindy out and contact First Call today!

Top 3 Ways SMBs Cut their Security Spend

Silhouette of the hunter on a lagoon of a morning dawn

The time to think “My business is too small for cyber-attacks” has passed. Cybercriminals are now increasingly targeting small to medium-sized businesses. This is due to the widely known fact that many SMBs do not prioritize their budget to include proper internet security. Basically, these businesses are sitting ducks and the hunters are taking aim.

But SMBs do not need to take out another loan in order to secure their network. Here are a few ways that any SMB can increase their cybersecurity without breaking the bank.

  1. Prioritize – It really is the first and most simple step. By simply prioritizing cybersecurity, an SMB can then make the right decisions to incorporate the need in their next annual budget. SMBs can go even further by asking themselves, “Is there certain data that would be disastrous if it was stolen?” If the answer is yes, then it is a good idea to prioritize securing that data first.
  2. Policies – Every business should have official rules and procedures for any work that affects the business’s network and data security. By establishing clear expectations managers will be able to enforce stronger cybersecurity at their SMB.
  3. Educate – Along with having clear policies and procedures, every business should conduct ongoing cybersecurity training for its employees. The training should discuss common phishing schemes, strong vs. poor passwords, and how to connect to a public Wi-Fi securely.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.” Don’t let your SMB continue to sit out in an open while cybercriminals take aim. Raise alarm and start protecting your business today!

Is BYOD Right for Your Business?

BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” to work policies are an attractive trend that many SMBs are adapting. The policy tends to attract new hires, increase employee morale and overall productivity for companies. But not every company will benefit from a BYOD program. Here are a few things to consider before implementing a BYOD policy in any company.

What does BYOD REALLY cost?

Initially, businesses are hypnotized by the thought of saving money with a BYOD program. After all, letting employees use their own personal devices for work will save the company thousands of dollars, right? Wrong. Employers should also consider the cost of IT support for the devices. Employers cannot regulate the websites that their employees visit on their personal devices. This means that employees who visit risky websites at home also put the business’s network’s security at risk. Considering that 60% of SMBs do not survive a cyber attack, allowing a BYOD policy without proper IT support has the potential to devastate any business.

What devices should be allowed?

To better secure the business’s infrastructure, it is a great idea to limit the types of devices that qualify for a BYOD program. Creating a list of approved devices can help eliminate employees from using old and outdated equipment and reduce the number of software or equipment upgrades.

Are there any other risks?

Yes, companies who store customer data may make themselves vulnerable to legal risks if they offer a BYOD policy. Because employers cannot regulate the websites that their employees visit on their personal devices, these devices become more vulnerable to data breaches. It is not uncommon for customers to take legal action when their personal data is exposed, lost or stolen.

While BYOD programs do save companies on the initial investments for PCs, tablets, and mobile devices, they can quickly become a legal and financial burden for the business. If you are still unsure if a BYOD policy is right for your business, contact First Call today to discuss your business’s needs with one of our technology experts!

References

Galvin, J. (2018, May 7). 60 Percent of Small Businesses Fold Within 6 Months of a Cyber Attack. Here’s How to Protect Yourself. Retrieved from Inc.: https://www.inc.com/joe-galvin/60-percent-of-small-businesses-fold-within-6-months-of-a-cyber-attack-heres-how-to-protect-yourself.html

IT Mistakes to Avoid While You Grow Your Business

Young plant evolution on light background

It is not uncommon for growing businesses to find that their IT no longer yields the same returns as they had originally expected. There are numerous factors that play into misshaped IT. Here are a few common ways that you can try to make sure that your business’s IT grows with you.

  1. Prioritize Your IT

Not prioritizing your IT is one of the most common mistakes SMB’s face. The reality is, technology is at the backbone of most businesses and should be considered in any financial or strategic planning. Planning for your technology to grow with your business can help you avoid some unexpected IT expenses in the future.

  1. Consider Your Specific IT Needs

It is easy to get wrapped up in the “latest and greatest” trends when making decisions to purchase new IT equipment. No two businesses are alike, and so it is important to remember that ‘new’ does not always mean that it is ‘right for you.’ When making new IT equipment decisions it is best to talk with a technology expert to gain a better understanding of the devices that are on the market and which ones will benefit your business the most.

  1. Share Your IT Plan with Your Team

Include your team when making decisions on new technology or IT policies that will affect them. By involving those who use the technology the most at your business, you will gain a better understanding of what is needed and therefore make a better decision. Making sure that everyone is on the same page will also assist with the transition into any new technologies or policies.

  1. Train Yourself and Your Staff

Make sure that you and your staff know of all the unique functionalities behind your IT equipment. Being sure that you are utilizing your technology to its full capabilities is a great way to ensure your return on investment.

There will always be an amount of uncertainty when planning for future growth within your company. By including your IT in your business plan, you can avoid some otherwise unforeseen growing pains.

5 Security Practices to Teach Your Employees

Many businesses provide their employees with the necessary devices that they need to conduct their work, such as mobile phones, laptops, or tablets. Surprisingly, not many businesses train their employees on the best practices to keep their work devices secure.  Here are 5 security practices that employees need to know to help keep company data safe.

  1. Network Connection
    Smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices are incredibly useful tools for employees to utilize. New mobile technologies allow for employees to keep productive while traveling or working from home, however; with the increase in mobility, there also needs to be an increase in security. It is recommended to instruct employees to not use Bluetooth connections on their work devices as they are easy for hackers to break into. In addition, private Wi-fi’s have proven to be easy to hack. Employees who work from home should be using a WPA2 encryption method to secure their Wi-Fi connection. No matter where employees are working from, be positive that the network connection is secure.
  1. Access to the Device
    Avoid connecting work devices to public internet hot spots such as at coffee shops or airports. If the devices are being used in public places, ensure that the work is being done on a secure network and that there is not any visual access to the device from the public network. Instruct employees to never leave a device unattended and to never allow for friends or family to use a company device.
  1. Password Security
    Complex passwords are not enough. Encourage employees to keep their passwords private and to change them frequently. Passwords should be changed at least every three months but, the more often, the better. It is also a recommended to not use the same passwords on multiple accounts. Instruct employees to use different passwords than the ones they use in their personal accounts as these passwords are often vulnerable and easy to hack.
  1. Monitor Software
    All the applications and software that are downloaded and installed on any work device should be monitored. Some software’s can have holes in their security and have the potential to make a network vulnerable to cyber criminals. Employees should be given a list of software’s that have been deemed acceptable to be download on their work devices. Whenever possible, employees should avoid downloading any unnecessary software’s to their work devices.
  1. Spam
    It is easy for cyber criminals to send employees spam that appears to come from within the organization. Encourage employees to check the sending address of any suspicious company emails. In addition, express a level of concern when opening any email from an outside organization. Extra special care should be taken when clicking on any link within an unknown email.

The majority of businesses who experience data loss will never recover. While it is important to remember that no business is ever 100% safe from cyber criminals, following these five tips is a great way to increase security within any organization. It is up to every employer to train its employees on the best security precautions for their business.

 

REFERENCES

Kosutic, D. (2015, April 26). 8 Security Practices to Use in Your Employee Training and Awareness Program. Retrieved from The State of Security: https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-awareness/8-security-practices-to-use-in-your-employee-training-and-awareness-program/

Do Business Better with Office 365

The modern work environment no longer requires for employees to be chained to their desks in a traditional office. As more office’s utilize laptops for their employees’ primary workstations, the benefits of Microsoft’s Office 365 become unavoidable. Office 365 allows for employees to work with confidence, from anywhere, and in their own way. Here are 3 reasons why Office 365 can help you do business better.

Work with confidence. Your files and data are save and secure with Office 365.  Automatic security updates occur monthly as new features are released. In addition, with Microsoft’s Office 365’s multi-factor authentication cyber-criminals no longer only need your password to hack into your account and steal your important documents. Office 365’s multi-factor authentication requires your password AND a security code that is provided to you instantly through a text, phone call, or an app on your mobile device. It doesn’t get much more secure than that!

Work better from anywhere you go. Take your files on the road with you, (even when you are off your corporate network) with Office 365. Collaboration is made easy with real time HD videos, digital white-boards, and content sharing. Your team doesn’t have to stop working just because you are out of the office. Keep productive with the advanced share features offered with Office 365

Work YOUR way. You no longer must be in the office in order to be productive. Access your files from anywhere and on any devices with Office 365’s mobile apps. Compatible with any Windows, Android, or iOS devise, nothing will stop you from getting your work done with ease. Not sure where you saved the last document you were working on? Find any document easily with Office 365’s Smart Lookup technology.

Successful people are constantly seeking out better ways to conduct their business.  Free your workers from the chains of their desks and offer them better work experiences with Office 365. Have questions about how Office 365 can help your office conduct better business? Contact us to set up a free consultation today!

5 Ways to Reduce Downtime

It may not come as a surprise that operating a business is an expensive venture. When a business is faced with technical problems on their network, software or equipment, costs go beyond just a financial standpoint. The time that employees spend trying to fix these issues, or waiting for technical support to do the same, could be spent in a manner that is productive for the business. Here are a few ways to reduce that risk, save your business some financial stress, and make sure it operates at an optimal level.

  1. Choose a vendor that aligns itself with the vision of your organization. Downtime is inevitable in the workplace. One way to ensure that your business stays productive during that time, is to hire the right IT management service. Having an entire staff for the management of your business’s IT systems can be expensive. Hiring a team of educated and trained professionals will help solve the problems in a quick, satisfying manner and can save stress from a financial standpoint.
  2. Consistently update your software and hardware. The phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is not always applicable. In the fast-moving world of information technology, it is important to stay as up-to-date as possible. Keeping up with the latest updates for applications on your mobile devices and workstations is a simple, effective way of reducing the risk of downtime. While consistently updating systems may not eliminate downtime, it is the first important step.
  3. Implement procedures, in the event that a business experiences system downtime. An important step in reducing downtime is simply taking the necessary precautions to ensure that your business stays productive when disaster strikes. As was mentioned previously, downtime can be inevitable at times. Natural disasters and major power outages are unavoidable. It is useful for businesses to create a list of tasks and objectives to have completed while dealing with system downtime. Outages are unpredictable and being proactive in preparing for them is an easy and effective strategy.
  4. Purchase reliable equipment. While it might be tempting to make the decision to purchase lower priced products and services, it can greatly increase the risk of system downtime. The decision to invest in high quality equipment is a simple, effective step in being sure that you avoid system errors. Higher quality products will last longer and perform at a more productive level. Even though the initial purchase of low quality equipment is cheaper, it will require maintenance and will have a shorter lifespan.
  5. Regularly clean the facilities. Another cluster of problems that can occur with equipment is water damage, careless employees, small pests chewing through wires, and fires. Take the time to properly train employees on the importance of maintaining a clean workspace and checking the necessary structural hazards.

Operating a business is expensive and it is important to be confident in the stability of your technology. Following these few simple objectives will help minimize the frustrations of dealing with downtime. It starts with finding the vendor that is right for your business needs. Here at First Call, we separate you from those technical frustrations and help save your business time and money. Contact us to set up a free consultation today!

 

References

Anderson, M. (2017, August 29). Blog. Retrieved from 365 Technologies Inc: https://www.365tech.ca/minimize-system-downtime-risk-following-simple-tips/

Articles. (2015, August 3). Retrieved from The LMJ: https://the-lmj.com/2015/08/ways-to-minimize-the-risk-of-system-downtime/

Tso, R. L. (2017, December 6). Mitigating Risks Associated With IT Server Downtime. Retrieved from Huff Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-tso/aims-innovation-mitigates_b_3493037.html

Widjaya, I. (2014, December 9). Info Tech. Retrieved from Noobpreneur: https://www.noobpreneur.com/2014/12/09/reduce-risk-network-downtime/

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